“iPad kids,” or babies and young children who have access to more screen time have a higher likelihood of developmental delays, according to a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association of Pediatrics (JAMA).
The cohort study, conducted by Taku Obara, PhD, from the Tohoku Medical Megabank Project Birth and Three-Generation Cohort Study, included 7,097 mother-child pairs, and looked at the amount of time the children spent on tablets, phones, watching TV, or using other technology and how it related to their mental and physical abilities as they developed.
Of the 7,097 children included in the study, 3,674 were boys (51.8%) and 3,423 were girls (48.2%).
While most of the children watched less than two hours per day, 18 percent saw from two to less than four hours daily, and 4 percent watched more than four hours each day. The association between screen time and developmental delays was greatest in the babies who had the most screen time.
The study found that by two years old, babies who spent up to four hours per day in front of a screen were three times more likely to experience communication and problem-solving delays, while those who spent four or more hours on their devices were 5.78 times more likely to experience the same delays as they got older. They were also 1.74 times more likely to have underdeveloped fine motor skills and two times more likely to have not properly developed their personal and social skills.
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The study reported that four-year-old children who had more screen time as babies had developmental delays in communication, gross motor and fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, and personal and social skills.
The researchers noted that the delays were not cause by the screens but that the babies were missing out on face-to-face interactions with their parents and other humans.
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They also noted that their study did not distinguish between screen time that was meant to be educational and shows that were strictly for entertainment.
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The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that children have a limit of 1 hour per day of screen time for children ages 2 to 5 years to ensure that they engage in physical activity and receive adequate rest.
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The AAP guidelines also calls for no screen time before 18 months of age.